Musical Monday: Strike Me Pink (1936)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Strike Me Pink – Musical #607

Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Company

Director: Norman Taurog

Starring:
Eddie Cantor, Ethel Merman, Sally Eilers, Harry Parke (billed as Parkyakarkus), William Frawley, Brian Donlevy, Jack LaeRue, Dona Drake (billed as Rita Rio), Helen Lowell, Gordon Jones, Sunnie O’Dea, Edward Brophy, Charles C. Wilson, Theresa Harris (uncredited), Dennis O’Keefe (uncredited), Mickey Daniels (uncredited)
Featuring: The Goldwyn Girls (including Jinx Falkenburg, Joan Barclay, Harriett De Busman, Dorothy Dugan, Gail Goodson, Mary Gwynne, Carol Hughes, Kay Hughes, Elaine Johnson, Charlotte Russell, Gail Sheridan, Marcia Sweet, Anya Taranda, Vicki Vann, Blanca Vischer)

Plot:
A meek shop owner Eddie Pink (Cantor) wants to gain confidence and is in love with nightclub singer Joyce Lennox (Merman). He helps college student Butch Carson (Jones) get through college. Butch’s mother Mrs. Carson (Lowell) wants Butch to take over her Dreamland amusement park, but when she meets Eddie exercising his confidence, she makes Eddie the new manager of Dreamland. The only problem is that gangsters (Donlevy) try to push out Eddie so that slot machines will be added in the amusement park.

Trivia:
• Portions of this film can be seen in The Beatles film “Yellow Submarine” in the “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” sequence.
• “Strike Me Pink” was the last of six films that Eddie Cantor made with Samuel Goldwyn.
• Adapted from the novel “Dreamland” by Clarence Budington Kelland, which was also published in the Saturday Evening Post.
• Sam Hardy was supposed to play the role of Copple. Hardy died in 1935 after an intestinal surgery, and he was replaced by William Frawley.
• Writer Clarence Kelland wrote the story with Harold Lloyd in mind.
• Dona Drake’s first full-length feature film. Jinx Falkenburg’s first Hollywood film.
• Unrelated to the 1933 Broadway musical of the same name.
• Film debut of Carol Chilton and Maceo Thomas. “Strike Me Pink” is one of two films they starred in.

Eddie Cantor using his confidence book in “Strike Me Pink”

Highlights:
• Eddie Cantor’s Super Service shop that breaks in shoes, and has automatic shoe shines.
• Edward Brophy dancing.
• Sunnie O’Dea tap dancing with her reflection in the floor.

Notable Songs:
• “First You Have Me High (Then You Have Me Low)” performed by Ethel Merman
• “The Lady Dances” performed by Dona Drake (billed as Rita Rio), Eddie Cantor and the Goldwyn Girls
• “Shake It Off with Rhythm” performed by Ethel Merman, Sunnie O’Dea and the Goldwyn Girls
• “Calabash Pipe” performed by Ethel Merman and Eddie Cantor

My review:
In the world of entertainment, Broadway and Hollywood don’t always meet.

But in the musical “Strike Me Pink” (1936), two of the stage’s most famous actors are teamed together: Eddie Cantor who starred in Florenz Ziegfeld’s plays and Ethel Merman who started in Broadway in 1930.

Eddie Cantor plays a meek pants presser and loves Ethel Merman from affair, from just seeing her photos in the newspaper. It turns out that Merman is a brassy nightclub performer who is friends with gangsters with Brian Donlevy as their leader. The gangsters want to put slot machines in the Dreamland amusement park that Eddie manages, but the owner of the amusement park doesn’t want gambling at her park.

While Cantor and Merman are the stars of this film, Merman really doesn’t have much screen time. Ethel Merman even withdrew as the lead for “Anything Goes” to star in this picture, according to the book Ethel Merman: A Life by Brian Kellow. She wanted to conquer Hollywood like she had Broadway, Kellow wrote.

While it was a rather thankless role, Merman does get the benefit of Merritt B. Gerstad’s cinematography for her number
“First You Have Me High,” which is one of the best numbers in the film.

Eddie Cantor played his usual meek role, but he is still very funny and effective. As he reads over his confidence book and practices the “magnetic eye” and “magnetic stance,” I was laughing out loud.

The supporting cast really is a large part of the storyline and also a major highlight. Sally Eilers plays Cantor’s secretary, who doesn’t think he will succeed at the job. Helen Lowell owns the Dreamland amusement park and disapproves of gambling. Both are effective and humorous in their roles.

The gangsters are also really fun. Brian Donlevy plays a thankless heavy role, but his henchmen have all the fun. Edward Brophy turns out to be reading the same confidence book as Cantor. And then there is William Frawley, who is always delightful to see in films.

Dona Drake and the “Goldwyn Girls” in the “The Lady Dances” number in “Strike Me Pink”

“Strike Me Pink” is mostly a comedy but with musical numbers added in, but they are musical numbers of quality. Dona Drake (billed as Rita Rio) is spotlighted in her first full-length feature film as she is the featured singer and dancer in “The Lady Dances.” Sunnie O’Dea also does a fascinating tap number in the song “Shake It Off with Rhythm.” O’Dea dances on a very shiny floor so that you can see her reflection, but then her reflection dances it’s own way.

“Strike Me Pink” is hilarious and fun, but the end was exhausting. The film wraps with an elaborate chase scene through the Dreamland amusement park – running up and down the rollercoaster, riding on the roller coaster, falling off the roller coaster, ending up in a hot air balloon, being tossed by acrobats, etc.

This chase scene is reminiscent of what Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton may have done in one of their silent films. But I just found this exhausting and stressful – not my type of humor but others may enjoy it.

Despite the ending, “Strike Me Pink” was a fun mix of musical and comedy that sometimes goes overlooked.

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